As General Motors prepares out to withdraw its Chevrolet brand from Europe’s mainstream automotive segments starting in 2016 to place greater emphasis on the Opel-Vauxhall brands due to “a challenging business model and the difficult economic situation” in the region, the automaker has different plans for Japan. Specifically, The General has high hopes for Japan. Coincidentally, it also has low sales in the country.
GM says that it’s is Japan for the long haul even though sales of Cadillac and Chevrolet models currently barely surpass 1,000 vehicles a year. By contrast, Japanese consumers purchase Toyota’s luxury Lexus vehicles at a rate of 40,000 a year. Interestingly, it’s not all about the domestics in Japan, as BMWs sells roughly the same amount of cars as Lexus does. In that regard, it seems that the tables are turned against American automakers in Japan, favoring European and Japanese brands.
As it stands, there are several barriers to foreign automakers selling a considerable amount of cars in Japan, such as offering right-hand drive vehicles — something that GM should be known for, given its global nature. That’s why GM sees an an opportunity in Japan, especially given that sales of its luxury nameplates have doubled in the past three years. So it will initially attempt to attract customers with the 2014 Cadillac CTS and 2014 Chevy Corvette C7 Stingray.
While Sumito Ishiii, GM Japan Managing Director, didn’t provide a sales target, he did say that part of GM’s strategy to grow sales is to approach buyers who may not have preconceived perceptions, whether right or wrong, about GM. In addition, both right-hand drive models are on their way. Currently, GM Japan’s product portfolio is made up of:
CTS Sport Wagon
“We have just begun our fight,” Ishii was quoted as saying at an event in Tokyo. “We offer attractive qualities that you can’t find in Japanese and European cars.” Ishii, along with Gregg Sedewitz, director of sales and marketing, say that GM’s cars represent American luxury and are associated with risk taking, coolness, and Hollywood celebrities. Of course, having renowned world-class products to sell helps, as well.
One of these highly-acclaimed global products is the new 2014 Cadillac CTS, which features great driving dynamics that surpass anything offered by Japan’s Lexus or Nissan/Infiniti, matching those of BMW and Mercedes-Benz thanks to a lightweight architecture, direct-injected engines, and well-tuned advanced chassis architectures. The new CTS has a starting price of 5.99 million yen ($59,900 USD) and 6.99 million yen ($69,900 USD). Meanwhile, the Corvette, starts at 9.29 million yen ($92,900 USD) and climbs all the way up to 11.59 million yen ($115,900). In Japan, the new CTS goes on sale in April of 2014, while the Corvette C7 goes on sales in May of 2014.
Perhaps more importantly is GM’s attitude on Japan, which Mr. Sedewitz summarized well:
“The numbers speak for themselves. We are in it for the long term.”
Now if only The General could do the same for Chevrolet in Europe before completely pulling the plug on the brand in the region.